Bangor in Wales: Best things to do and see over a weekend!
It may seem like a quiet little city nestled in the Welsh valleys but Bangor is steeped in fascinating history, with plenty to do and see – making it a lovely Welsh weekender. Not to mention it’s the gateway to the epic Snowdonia National Park!
Here are the best things to do and see over a weekend in Bangor, Wales.
Penrhyn Castle & Garden
Starting the list off with my favourite thing to do in Bangor…Penrhyn Castle!
Built by the Pennant family between 1822 and 1837, the “castle” is actually a grand Victorian country house designed in the style of a Norman castle.
You can easily spend half a day here. Getting lost inside the house and having a nosey at all the antique furniture and artefacts!
The Pennant family were considered leading industrialists at the time. So much so that Queen Victoria herself visited in 1859.
They had a specially designed Norman-style one-ton slate bed even made for her visit. But upon seeing the bed she apparently said: “It’s interesting but not inviting.”
Needless to say that was a wasted investment!
Despite the castle’s grandeur and extensive collection of international antiques and furnishings from places such as Jamaica, Sri Lanka, China and Japan, it has quite the murky past.
The Pennant family earned their vast fortune through a combination of Welsh slate mining and slave-run sugar plantations in Jamaica.
When slavery was abolished in 1834, the owner of Penrhyn Castle was disgustingly compensated with a sum of money that essentially covered the cost of building the castle!
But despite its dark history, the National Trust doesn’t shy away from it. They educate visitors on all the chapters of Penrhyn Castle’s past and that of the family that built it.
When I visited, I really appreciated their transparency. They make a real effort to educate the public about the property’s dark colonialism roots. It serves as a unique time capsule, giving you a glimpse into a bygone era that’s difficult to understand.
As well as learning about the history of the property, there are lighter exhibitions such as the on-site rail museum and art gallery.
Make sure to stop for a spot of lunch in their cafe before enjoying their beautiful valley gardens.
Bangor Garth Pier
Is there anything more quintessentially British than a seaside town with a Victorian pier? Well Bangor is no exception! It’s home to a wonderfully preserved Grade II listed pier which is the second-longest in Wales at 1,500 feet.
Originally opened to the public in 1896 to handle steamers carrying tourists, it still functions as a tourist spot today. With popular cafes and kiosks selling local artwork and gifts as well as crabbing and fishing gear.
It’s a lovely spot in Bangor to enjoy a good ‘ol Victorian stroll and some afternoon tea and cake. It’s also a great place to enjoy the stunning views of Bangor and Anglesey across the water too.
Storiel Museum and Art Gallery
Storiel (formerly known as the Gwynedd Museum and Art Gallery) offers visitors an interesting insight into various aspects of life in Gwynedd. From the Roman occupation and Norman invasion to the slate industry and modern day tourism – a lot has happened in this tiny Welsh city!
Storiel has a collection of nearly 10,000 items, including: furniture, textiles, archaeology, ceramics, social history, art and history from the area.
They have permanent exhibitions on the history of Bangor and Gwynedd as well as a fantastic active programme of temporary exhibitions and special events.
It’s well worth a visit, if you want to find out more about the history of Bangor.
Cadeirlan Bangor Cathedral
Bangor Cathedral is a charming little 12th century gothic style cathedral situated just off the high street in central Bangor.
Although the current cathedral was built in the High Middle Ages, there has been a place of worship here since the 6th century.
It’s beautiful inside, with ornate stain glass and intricately carved woodwork features. But the coolest thing about Bangor Cathedral is that the last King of Wales, Gruffudd ap Cynan is actually buried here!
Bangor University has been at the heart of the city since it opened its doors to students in 1884.
But for us visitors, it offers two fantastic points of interest – their Arts and Innovation Centre and their incredible hill-top view!
The university’s Arts and Innovation Centre, ‘Pontio’ (meaning “to bridge” in Welsh) brings together a unique blend of innovation, learning, cinema and theatre, all under one roof.
There’s always great shows and events on here so is a great place to bookmark for an evening of entertainment during your weekend.
Then, there’s the view….
Bangor University is in a prime position over-looking the city of Bangor, the sea and the lovely rolling hillsides – it’s certainly the best view in town!
Bangor High Street
Shopping and eating independent on the high street is also a MUST when you visit Bangor. It’s a haven for independent retailers such as record and clothing stores as well independent bars and restaurants.
Top picks for foodies (including us vegans!) are the Coffee House & Tea Salon and the Wood Fired Shack.
The Wood Fired Shack does amazing pizza, cooked to perfection in their wood fire ovens. They even do vegan cheese! We also had guacamole and chips to start which my boyfriend couldn’t stop raving about.
Upon telling him I was writing this post he insisted I tell you that Wood Fired Shack’s guacamole was the best he’s ever had in his life LOL. It was great guac though tbf.
Honourable mentions: Snowdonia National Park
Bangor is a great place to stay if you’re looking to visit Snowdonia National Park! It’s only about a 40 minute drive away from Bangor but it’s also possible to get there by bus.
If you fancy taking on Snowdon whilst you’re staying in Bangor, check out my 15 tips for climbing Snowdon to ensure you reach the top!
Other posts about Wales you might like…
- Top 10 most awesome facts about Snowdonia
- 15 Tips for climbing Snowdon (to ensure you reach the top!)
- Top 10 things to do in Conwy
- Caban Crwn review: The perfect off-grid weekender
- Weekend Guide to Swansea Bay
- 10 Awesome things to do in Swansea Bay
- Flying on the fastest zipline in the world!
Have you been to Bangor in Wales? What things would you most like to check out from this list?